Romans 13 Resource (?)

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Puddin’ | Forum Activity | Posted: Tue, Oct 20 2020 4:33 AM

I know we aren’t supposed to broach theological topics on these forums (which I actually like), but I need to just provide a little background for clarity’s sake.  I will not be too specific/theological at all & I hope this is not a violation of forum policies.  

A couple of pastors contacted me over the weekend to ask if I would be interested in coming on their podcast sometime this week to offer an exegetical/historical/cultural response to a major issue (that y’all have already likely seen) regarding a pastor in Louisiana who was in the news this year for refusing to comply w. the governors edict to cease in-person church services temporarily due to COVID-19.

Without being too specific, suffice it to say that he and several other pastors are arguing that Romans 13 is “not referring to civil authority, but rather to church government & the NT ministry” (their exact words).  Moreover, many of these same pastors have now begun to openly chastise pastors who have gone to online services for their midweek Bible studies charging that they are tantamount to bowing to Darius’s edict to not pray (🙄).  Churches are actually being split to some extent over this matter.

They’re also openly stating that Romans 13 is “not talking about taxes, but rather to tithes & offerings as in the OT support of the Levitical priesthood” & that there are some “bad translations that violate the context of church ministry & interpolate governing authorities into these passages in Romans 13.”  Yep, you guessed it—they’re KJVO!

My dilemma:  I have approx. 15 in-depth exegetical commentaries on Romans, but the problem is that these pastors are wanting me to do the podcast refutation by the end of the week.  I have already started working through some of these commentaries (e.g., WBC, Baker Exegetical, etc.).  Is there a resource on Logos that anyone can perhaps point me to that is straight to the point, academical & exegetical in nature?  

I won’t be able to respond until later Tuesday night, but I will definitely tag back in then.  Much appreciated in advance🤓.

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Levi Durfey | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Oct 20 2020 4:43 AM

Puddin’:
My dilemma:  I have approx. 15 in-depth exegetical commentaries on Romans, but the problem is that these pastors are wanting me to do the podcast refutation by the end of the week.  I have already started working through some of these commentaries (e.g., WBC, Baker Exegetical, etc.).  Is there a resource on Logos that anyone can perhaps point me to that is straight to the point, academical & exegetical in nature?  

I always like to start with the "Exegetical Summary" commentaries because they, as the name implies, summarize other commentaries. Also, they ask good questions of the text and show how other commentaries would answer them. It gives me a good place to start. I also see what commentaries I might like to start reading first.

https://www.logos.com/product/38327/an-exegetical-summary-of-romans-9-16

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Ken McGuire | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Oct 20 2020 5:31 AM

It sounds like you are facing people with an interesting and creative reading of Rom 13.

My first question is if your response has to use Romans 13. One of the first rules I learned in exegesis classes was that it is SO easy to read into familiar texts what you know it says instead of listening to what it says. And it sounds like they have considerable barriers of what they KNOW Romans 13 says. And while I certainly think Rom 13 it clearly against them, there are other passages that are equally as strong, eg. 1 Pet 2:13, where it seems clear that the "basileus" is not an ecclesiastical figure.

Oh, I know you will have to go back to Rom 13, but maybe you can break into their assumptions by using another text as a gateway for them to see the obvious about Rom 13 - "there is no power but of God" (KJV)

The Gospel is not ... a "new law," on the contrary, ... a "new life." - William Julius Mann

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Paul | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Oct 20 2020 6:14 AM

Hi Puddin' - I think exegesis has its place, but its likely you already have a view on the relevant scriptures. An alternative approach is to first line up your main argument using the summary exegetical materials and then address each of your opponents' main arguments sequentially. Its more work, but if done well provides a complete answer to them. Apologies if I'm trying to teach you to 'suck eggs' as the saying goes.

The resources in your library are likely different from mine, but here's some suggestions - 

Exegetical

Hendriksen, William, and Simon J. Kistemaker. Exposition of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans. Vol. 12–13. New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953–2001. Page 428+

Abernathy, David. An Exegetical Summary of Romans 9–16. Dallas, TX: SIL International, 2009 at page 234+

Cranfield, C. E. B. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans. International Critical Commentary. London; New York: T&T Clark International, 2004 at page 651+

Schreiner, Thomas R. Romans. Vol. 6. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1998 at page 681 onwards.

Further texts

Coleman, Thomas M. “Binding Obligations in Romans 13:7: A Semantic Field And Social Context.” Tyndale Bulletin 48, no. 2 (1997): 307–28.

Blumenfeld, Bruno. The Political Paul: Justice, Democracy and Kingship in a Hellenistic Framework. Vol. 210. Journal for the Study of the New Testament Supplement Series. London; New York: T&T Clark, 2003.

“The Christian and the secular state” in Chapter 14 of Feinberg, John S., and Paul D. Feinberg. Ethics for a Brave New World. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1993.

“Let Every Soul Be Subject: Romans 13 and the Authority of the State”- Chapter 10 in John Howard Yoder, The Politics of Jesus: Vicit Agnus Noster, Second Edition. (Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1994), 193-211.

“Civil government” in Calvin, John. Institutes of the Christian Religion, 1536 Edition. Translated by Ford Lewis Battles. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company; The H. H. Meeter Center for Calvin Studies, 1995 at page 207+.

“The Christian and secular rulers” in Moo, Douglas J. The Letter to the Romans. Edited by Ned B. Stonehouse, F. F. Bruce, Gordon D. Fee, and Joel B. Green. Second Edition. The New International Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2018 at page 808+.

“The Historical Problem of Romans 13:1–7”  in Neil Elliott, Liberating Paul: The Justice of God and the Politics of the Apostle (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1994), 218.

“The institution of government authority” in Chapter 11 of Kuyper, Abraham. Common Grace: God’s Gifts for a Fallen World: The Historical Section. Edited by Jordan J. Ballor, Melvin Flikkema, and Stephen J. Grabill. Translated by Nelson D. Kloosterman and Ed M. van der Maas. Vol. 1. Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press; Acton Institute, 2015 at page 92+.

I'm sure others will make some more helpful suggestions. Good luck! Keep well  Paul 

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Olli-Pekka Ylisuutari | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Oct 20 2020 1:42 PM

Puddin’:

He and several other pastors are arguing that Romans 13 is “not referring to civil authority, but rather to church government & the NT ministry” (their exact words).

In light of the above it would be very interesting to hear their explanation as to why St. Paul then says in Rom. 13: 4, οὐ γὰρ εἰκῇ τὴν μάχαιραν φορεῖ, ‘it does not carry the sword in vain.’ If St. Paul is referring “rather to church government and the NT ministry” why does he speak about the sword? Is the church government and NT ministry to be conducted via a sword, then?

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David Thomas | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Oct 20 2020 2:10 PM

Puddin’:
Is there a resource on Logos that anyone can perhaps point me to that is straight to the point, academical & exegetical in nature?  

I did a Library search for "Civil Disobedience" and got 3 hits

Did an "everything" search and found several sections within those 3 books.

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Posts 375
Puddin’ | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Oct 21 2020 12:18 AM

Got it.  Excellent resource suggestions & points.  

I will be purchasing a lot of these works mentioned above that I wasn’t even aware of.  Good ideas from every post.

Greatly appreciated👍!

Posts 375
Puddin’ | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Oct 21 2020 12:25 AM

Olli-Pekka Ylisuutari:

Puddin’:

He and several other pastors are arguing that Romans 13 is “not referring to civil authority, but rather to church government & the NT ministry” (their exact words).

In light of the above it would be very interesting to hear their explanation as to why St. Paul then says in Rom. 13: 4, οὐ γὰρ εἰκῇ τὴν μάχαιραν φορεῖ, ‘it does not carry the sword in vain.’ If St. Paul is referring “rather to church government and the NT ministry” why does he speak about the sword? Is the church government and NT ministry to be conducted via a sword, then?

They view “the sword” as the Word of God as per numerous NT passage such as Hebrews (“...sharper than a two edged sword”), Ephesians (”...sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God”) & Revelation (“...out of his mouth went a sword...”).

However, although I haven’t yet checked, I am wondering if the same Greek noun is employed in all of these texts.  Will check a little later, but this is the same thing I have been wondering.

Posts 106
Olli-Pekka Ylisuutari | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Oct 21 2020 12:38 AM

Puddin’:

They view “the sword” as the Word of God as per numerous NT passage such as Hebrews (“...sharper than a two edged sword”), Ephesians (”...sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God”) & Revelation (“...out of his mouth went a sword...”).

Aah, the age old allegorical or non-literal method of interpretation... That explains it! Who's got the burden of proof on his/her shoulders, the one taking the word μάχαιρα, 'sword', literally or the one interpreting it symbolically or allegorically?

In all honesty, I haven't skimmed through my set of Romans Commentaries in Logos (I have 73 in total), but my guts tells me this: their's is an interpretation that might be a hermeneutical novelty that probably none of the commentaries addressess as such. I might be mistaken.

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Posts 106
Olli-Pekka Ylisuutari | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Oct 21 2020 1:28 AM

Puddin’:

They view “the sword” as the Word of God as per numerous NT passage such as Hebrews (“...sharper than a two edged sword”), Ephesians (”...sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God”) & Revelation (“...out of his mouth went a sword...”).

Thank you for your interesting reply. It got me thinking:

In Romans 8: 35 St. Paul asks: τίς ἡμᾶς χωρίσει ἀπὸ τῆς ἀγάπης τοῦ Χριστοῦ; θλῖψις ἢ στενοχωρία ἢ διωγμὸς ἢ λιμὸς ἢ γυμνότης ἢ κίνδυνος μάχαιρα;

“Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Affliction or distress, persecution or hunger, nakedness, danger or a sword?

Let’s assume your opponents are correct: If μάχαιρα means ‘sword’ in the symbolical meaning of ‘the (s)Word of God’ in Romans 13: 4, then why does St. Paul use it in a different sense in Romans 8: 35 – as something hypothetically able to separate us from the love of Christ?

What entitles us to change the meaning of the word μάχαιρα from literal sword (in Romans 8: 35) to a symbolic “(s)Word” (in Romans 13: 5)? What changes between Romans 8 and Romans 13? Or rather: Isn’t it so that nothing really changes? Isn’t it so that both passages talk about a literal sword?

Surely the (s)Word of God cannot separate us from the love of Christ?!

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Graham Criddle | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Oct 21 2020 1:39 AM

Olli-Pekka Ylisuutari:
What entitles us to change the meaning of the word μάχαιρα from literal sword (in Romans 8: 35) to a symbolic “(s)Word” (in Romans 13: 5)? What changes between Romans 8 and Romans 13?

Would not the same argument apply to how Paul uses the idea of death in Romans - when he seems to be meaning different things?

Posts 106
Olli-Pekka Ylisuutari | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Oct 21 2020 1:52 AM

Graham Criddle:

Would not the same argument apply to how Paul uses the idea of death in Romans - when he seems to be meaning different things?

It might. In that case I would be very much interested in knowing as to why Puddin's opponents reach out to Hebrews and Ephesians (distant letters in the NT Corpus) instead of the immediate context between Romans 8 and 13.

By the way: I came across an interesting article using the search function: <Bible Romans 13> WITHIN 30 WORDS symbolic.

Logos offered me this book: https://www.logos.com/product/50098/the-four-major-cults-christian-science-jehovahs-witnesses-mormonism-seventh-day-adventism

In it Anthony A. Hoekema writes regarding the way Jehovah's Wittnesses have interpreted Romans 13:

Hoekema, A. A. (1963). The Four Major Cults: Christian Science, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormonism, Seventh-Day Adventism (pp. 247–248). Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

So it seems that there is a precedent as to interpreting Romans 13 in a symbolic way - by Jehovah's Witnesses!

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Posts 375
Puddin’ | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Oct 21 2020 1:52 AM

Olli-Pekka Ylisuutari:

Puddin’:

They view “the sword” as the Word of God as per numerous NT passage such as Hebrews (“...sharper than a two edged sword”), Ephesians (”...sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God”) & Revelation (“...out of his mouth went a sword...”).

Thank you for your interesting reply. It got me thinking:

In Romans 8: 35 St. Paul asks: τίς ἡμᾶς χωρίσει ἀπὸ τῆς ἀγάπης τοῦ Χριστοῦ; θλῖψις ἢ στενοχωρία ἢ διωγμὸς ἢ λιμὸς ἢ γυμνότης ἢ κίνδυνος μάχαιρα;

“Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Affliction or distress, persecution or hunger, nakedness, danger or a sword?

Let’s assume your opponents are correct: If μάχαιρα means ‘sword’ in the symbolical meaning of ‘the (s)Word of God’ in Romans 13: 4, then why does St. Paul use it in a different sense in Romans 8: 35 – as something hypothetically able to separate us from the love of Christ?

What entitles us to change the meaning of the word μάχαιρα from literal sword (in Romans 8: 35) to a symbolic “(s)Word” (in Romans 13: 5)? What changes between Romans 8 and Romans 13? Or rather: Isn’t it so that nothing really changes? Isn’t it so that both passages talk about a literal sword?

Surely the (s)Word of God cannot separate us from the love of Christ?!

Right—in fact, what I personally learned in hermeneutical studies is that it’s an exegetical principle that in evaluating the meaning of a passage/word/etc. that we should begin by searching for & analyzing parallels in the current book under investigation.  From there we can widen the scope to other books by the same author, then on to other authors, syntactical parallels, LXX, ECF, etc.  

Not attempting to teach you this inasmuch as I realize you already know this (your posts betray this fact☺️).  I had actually forgotten about that until I saw your post.  Think I will use this as a launching pad (trust me, they don’t have a clue what we’re referring to here...or they wouldn’t hold to this outlandish theory).  

Posts 375
Puddin’ | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Oct 21 2020 2:03 AM

Wow—excellent points & references men.  I just acquired Hoekema‘s book.

I can’t help but think about the Father of the Figurative Hermeneutic, Origen.

Gotta’ run, but greatly appreciate the input👍!

Posts 166
Thomas Pape | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Oct 21 2020 5:25 AM

Ever thought of Bonhoeffer, who faced a similar problem?

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DAL | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Oct 21 2020 6:45 AM

Wow! Talk about making the Bible mean whatever you want it to “mean” even if it isn’t supported by the overall context of Scriptures.

Send them my way, I’ll straighten them out 😂😂😂

Posts 106
Olli-Pekka Ylisuutari | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Oct 21 2020 9:05 AM

Here in Finland (Europe, northern Scandinavia) the laws governing restrictions on gatherings do not apply to registered religious communities, even during these COVID-19 times. This is due to the Constitution of our Republic which guarantees the freedom of religion to everyone. Rather the registered religious communities can decide for themselves as to their possible physical gathering /non-gathering together.

Despite this the great majority of all the religious communities have acted in an exemplary and responsible way, especially during the second wave of Covid-19.

Ethically you could argue, that even this weren’t a juridical issue, it might be considered a moral issue: an issue concerning responsible behavior. And even if this were an adiaphora -issue (an indifference, which I think it is not), you could argue: omnia licent sed non omnia aedificant.

When I think about Puddin’s opponents, who try to interpret Romans 13: 1-7 in a symbolic way applying it to ecclesiology rather than to the doctrine of creation and earthly powers (church vs. state), this remark by Herman Ridderbos comes to my mind:

Out of opposition to a “natural theology” some have repeatedly sought for a deeper “christological foundation” of Romans 13:1–7. -- God, who just because he is the Creator of the world is also its Redeemer, and who in the work of redemption upholds the order of this world even in its fallen state. Also for this reason it is altogether important to him [St. Paul] that the church should not withdraw itself prematurely from this order appointed by God and the shield provided for it in that order, and he is not engaged as much as possible in relativizing this order on the ground of his faith in Christ, but rather in buttressing it as strongly as possible.”

Ridderbos, H. (1975). Paul: An Outline of His Theology. (J. R. De Witt, Trans.) (p. 324). Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company (emphases mine). You can find Ridderbos’ book here: https://www.logos.com/product/190883/paul-an-outline-of-his-theology

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Posts 106
Olli-Pekka Ylisuutari | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Oct 21 2020 11:11 PM

We find an intra-judaistic-ecclesiological, non-political, non-church-vs.-pagan state, interpretation on Romans 13: 1-7 in this article: https://goodfaithmedia.org/context-is-key-to-interpreting-romans-13-1-7-cms-19577/

In it David May writes: “In Romans 13:1-7, Paul is writing to Gentile believers in Rome to obey, not Roman secular/pagan authority, but to obey the God-ordained authority of the synagogue rulers in Rome.”

May bases his interpretation on Mark Nanos’ book The Mystery of Romans, unfortunately not in Logos but it can be found here: https://www.amazon.com/Mystery-Romans-Jewish-Context-Letters/dp/080062937X (especially pages 289-336, where Nanos presents his synagogal interpretation).

Ben Witherington takes up Nanos’ interpretation in Paul's Letter to the Romans (Socio-Rhetorical Commentary | SRC), https://www.logos.com/product/6250/pauls-letter-to-the-romans.

Writes Witherington:

 

Nanos for example interprets the sword in Romans 13: 4 as referring to the knife in circumcicion(!)

On the seventh point made by Nanos and summarized by Witherington, Witherington concludes:

“In view of the similarities between ch. 13 and both other early Jewish discussion of pagan officials and discussions such as we find in 1 Pet. 2:13–17, it is highly unlikely that Paul is speaking about synagogue officials in ch. 13. He does not use any synagogue-specific terms such as archisynagōgos. This, in turn, means that Paul is also not referring to the Temple tax” (Romans SRC, p. 331).

Needless to say, this intra-judaistic-ecclesiological, non-political, non-church-vs.-pagan-state interpretation is a minority view. And even if it were true, it would take quite a leap of hermeneutical application to import a supposedly original roman synagogue setting to a theocratical understanding of a Christian church living in a democratic setting in the 21st century.

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